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Revival of Millet Cultivation

  • 31 Mar 2021
  • 7 min read

Why in News

An International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) supported initiative to revive Kodo and Kutki Millets cultivation, started in the year 2013-14 in Dindori district of Madhya Pradesh, has given new life to the forgotten crops.

  • IFAD is a specialized agency of the United Nations and was one of the major outcomes of the 1974 World Food Conference.
  • Founded in 1977, IFAD focuses on rural poverty reduction, working with poor rural populations in developing countries to eliminate poverty, hunger, and malnutrition.

Key Points

  • About the Project:
    • Beginning:
      • The project was started with 1,497 women-farmers from 40 villages – mostly from the Gonda and Baiga tribes – growing these two minor millets (Kodo and Kutki) on 749 acres.
    • Seed and Training:
      • The identified farmers were supplied good-quality seeds and trained by scientists from the Jawaharlal Nehru Agricultural University in Jabalpur and the local Krishi Vigyan Kendra – on field preparation, line-sowing (as opposed to conventional broadcasting by hand) and application of compost, zinc, bavistin fungicide and other specific plant protection chemicals.
    • Self Help Groups:
      • A federation of the farmers’ self-help groups undertook procurement of the produce and also its mechanical de-hulling (the traditional manual pounding process to remove husk from the grain was time-consuming).
  • Impact:
    • Helped in increasing the number of farmers growing kodo-kutki in the project area to 14,301 in 2019-20.
    • Helped in increasing the acreage to 14,876 acres.
    • Helped in meeting nutritional goals (fighting malnourishment among children).
    • Helped in reviving millet cultivation (crop yields are 1.5-2 times higher than before).


  • About:
  • Millets in India:
    • The three major millet crops currently grown in India are jowar (sorghum), bajra (pearl millet) and ragi (finger millet).
      • Along with that, India grows a rich array of bio-genetically diverse and indigenous varieties of “small millets” like kodo, kutki, chenna and sanwa.
    • Major producers include Rajasthan, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra, Gujarat and Haryana.
  • Need for Reviving Millet Cultivation:
    • Nutritional Security:
      • Millets are less expensive and nutritionally superior to wheat & rice owing to their high protein, fibre, vitamins and minerals like iron content.
      • Millets are also rich in calcium and magnesium.
        • For example, Ragi is known to have the highest calcium content among all the food grains.
      • Its high iron content can fight high prevalence of anaemia in Indian women of reproductive age and infants.
    • Climate Resilient:
      • They are also harder and drought-resistant crops, which has to do with their short growing season (70-100 days, as against 120-150 days for paddy/wheat) and lower water requirement (350-500 mm versus 600-1,200 mm).
    • Economic Security:
      • As low investment is needed for production of millets, these can prove to be a sustainable income source for farmers.
    • Can Tackle Health Issues:
      • Millets can help tackle lifestyle problems and health challenges such as obesity and diabetes as they are gluten-free and have a low glycemic index (a relative ranking of carbohydrates in foods according to how they affect blood glucose levels).
  • Challenges:
    • Preference for Wheat:
      • Wheat has gluten proteins that swell and form networks on adding water to the flour, making the dough more cohesive and elastic.
        • The resultant chapattis come out soft, which isn’t possible with millets that are gluten-free.
    • Increased Demand for Processed Food:
      • India has seen a jump in consumer demand for ultra-processed and ready-to-eat products, which are high in sodium, sugar, trans-fats and even some carcinogens.
      • With the intense marketing of processed foods, even the rural population started perceiving mill-processed rice and wheat as more aspirational.
    • National Food Security Act Promoting Other Grains:
      • In rural India, the National Food Security Act of 2013 entitles three-fourths of all households to 5 kg of wheat or rice per person per month at Rs 2 and Rs 3 per kg, respectively, thus reducing the demand for millets.
  • Indian Initiatives:
    • Promoting Millets:
      • The Union Agriculture Ministry, in April 2018, declared millets as “Nutri-Cereals”, considering their “high nutritive value” and also “anti-diabetic properties”.
      • 2018 was also observed as ‘National Year of Millets”.
    • Increase in MSP:
      • The government has hiked the Minimum Support Price (MSP) of Millets, which came as a big price incentive for farmers.
      • Further, to provide a steady market for the produce, the government has included millets in the public distribution system.
    • Input Support:
      • The government has introduced provision of seed kits and inputs to farmers, building value chains through Farmer Producer Organisations and supporting the marketability of millets.
    • International Initiative:

Way Forward

  • Farming of millets deserves encouragement especially in view of their climate resilience, short cropping duration and ability to grow on poor soils, hilly terrains and with little rain.
  • Because of their accessibility to the poor, they can play an essential role in providing nourishment to people across all income categories and supporting climate adaptation of rainfed farming systems.


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